BASF and Lawyers Must Face Fraud Charges Over Asbestos Allegations
A Newark, New Jersey federal judge has ruled that a class action suit can move forward against chemical company BASF and its attorneys over asbestos fraud. Here’s a look at why this ruling is important to asbestos victims suffering from mesothelioma.
Background on the asbestos, where it originated, and how BASF ties into it
A class action lawsuit was filed against BASF and its attorneys alleging that it conspired to hide and/or destroy evidence of asbestos exposure to prevent lawsuits against the company. It all started with a mine in Vermont that a company called Engelhard used to source talc.
It was later proven that the talc contained asbestos and, back in the late 70s and early 80s, there were lawsuits over the asbestos use. Three Engelhard officials testified in depositions that there was in fact asbestos in the talc and that company officials hid this fact.
But then things got more secretive at Engelhard and, after the talc mine closed, documents pertaining to the asbestos were either destroyed or hidden away and the depositions in the prior lawsuit were sealed. The accusation leveled in the recent lawsuit was that attorneys were involved in the tampering.
There were more lawsuits in subsequent years, but Engelhard claimed there was never any asbestos in their talc. Engelhard was later acquired by BASF, a German firm. When one firm acquires another, they get the assets and the liabilities. In this case, the liabilities tied back to asbestos usage.
The lawsuit that started it all and the revelation of hidden documents
The case started back in 2009 when Donna Paduano, the daughter of an Engelhard employee, sued BASF over her mesothelioma alleging it was from second hand exposure to asbestos owing to her father’s job. Her father, a former scientist for Engelhard, testified about the alleged destruction of evidence.
David Swanson testified in his daughter’s lawsuit that asbestos was contained in the talc from the mine and that the legal department of Engelhard ordered employees to purge records related to the mine. This revelation triggered questions about former lawsuits related to asbestos.
Since then, both Donna Paduano and her father have died of asbestos related illnesses although BASF settled her lawsuit. But this opened up the floodgates to potential of billions of dollars of liability because of the hidden and destroyed documents that impacted more than two decades of litigation.
Former litigants and the loved ones of those who had prior suits wanted to file new suits or have prior suits reopened based on the new information. This triggered the class action lawsuit that BASF and its attorneys were trying to avoid.
In addition to BASF being subject to potential new lawsuits, the law firm of Cahill, Gordon & Reindell was also named a defendant in a class action suit planned on behalf of those that had been affected by the concealment of pertinent information about the asbestos used by Engelhard.
The law firm was considered culpable by plaintiffs in the suit because of accusations that they conspired to hide or destroy existing evidence and fabricate false evidence to avoid paying out claims to those injured by asbestos exposure.
The recent ruling and how it affects asbestos exposure victims
There was a motion filed by BASF along with Cahill, Gordon & Reindell, and two former in-house attorneys, requesting that they be excluded from the class action suit for their alleged actions. US District Judge Jose Linares denied the motion of all parties seeking to be excluded from liability in the suit.
Judge Linares said in his ruling, “this Court have determined that Plaintiffs have sufficiently stated a claim for fraudulent concealment… [and] Plaintiffs may seek injunctive and declaratory relief aimed at resolving the claims alleged.”
The judge stated that the companies and parties in question, from the 1980s and prior, had a “duty to preserve evidence” that was relevant from prior lawsuits and “where it was reasonably foreseeable that the evidence would be relevant to anticipated lawsuits of nearly identical subject matter.”
Christopher Placitella, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs, said the judge’s decision “was a welcome ruling.” The plaintiffs in the class action suit are the estates and heirs of those who lost their lives to asbestos-related disease and were denied compensation as a resulted of the alleged fraud.
Now the class action suit – and other suits that may pertain to the exposure from the Engelhard mine – can move forward thanks to Judge Linares ruling. This is an important ruling for asbestos victims and those working to expose the asbestos industry and its impact on millions of lives.
Have you been affected by asbestos?
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact Bergman Draper Oslund today for a free case evaluation. Our practice is devoted to fighting for the rights of asbestos victims stricken with mesothelioma.
We have won more than $700 million for our clients and are ready to fight to help you. Call 888.647.6007 now to discuss a mesothelioma compensation claim with one of our experienced attorneys. We handle more mesothelioma claims than any other Northwest law firm.